[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/24/art.jessop.polygamy.hearing.jpg caption="Fundamentalist LDS Church spokesman Willie Jessop talks with reporters on Capitol Hill, today, following the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: Crimes Associated with Polygamy."]David Mattingly
When Senator Harry Reid of Nevada accuses polygamists of forming "a sophisticated, wealthy and vast criminal organization" and calls polygamous communities "a form of organized crime," he speaks from experience that goes beyond his role as Senate Majority Leader.
Years ago, Reid was the head of the Nevada Gaming Commission and worked to root out organized crime from Las Vegas casinos. He says polygamous communities in the U.S. are not the same as the old Vegas mobs but he says they continue to engage in crimes too serious to ignore. He wants Congress to approve a federal polygamy task force and funds to help protect possible witnesses of crimes.
A Senate hearing this morning brought out testimony from state and federal prosecutors calling for more resources to pursue crimes committed across state lines by polygamous groups like the FLDS. No one from the FLDS was asked to testify. Afterward I spoke to FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop who bristled at the accusations for my report on tonight’s AC360°. He said authorities are making blanket accusations without hard evidence. It was the same complaint he raised in Texas where six FLDS men including sect leader Warren Jeffs were indicted this week on charges stemming from the marriages of underage girls.
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